The images in my head of Berghain were those of Sodom itself come to life, with those of bleak, black haired hipster types standing around, trying their hardest not to appear to be enjoying themselves. I had other images of mass orgies, breaking out, as the DJ looked on blankly. I imagined breaking away from the dance floor, and getting submerged into a labyrinth of a dark room upon dark room, all cold and industrial, the fantasies being enacted in each one growing stranger and stranger, bordering on dangerous. Drugs would be done openly, offered openly, your neurochemistry never to be the same again upon exiting on Monday, at 7 am.
With this image in my mind, I walked out of Ostbahnhof Station, located 10 Minutes from the notorious Berghain. It was 4 pm on a Sunday. The area immediately around the club, full of furniture and garden warehouses, was completely empty. Near to the club, behind an imbiss stand nearby, were people sitting on the ground in a circle chatting, all in black, and pale.
As I got nearer, I stood up in the line, maybe for 20 minutes before I was face to face with the bouncers. There was a relaxed air about the place, the bouncers chatting, almost bantering. A young bouncer stood, somewhat distracted, not noticing me for a while. I stood there awkwardly. He looked up at me for a moment then completely ignored me again and went on bubbling with the others. Few Minutes later, he gestured me in with a frenzy, as the bouncers do in Berlin that makes you feel as if they’re making an exception. I was elated and trying to hold this elation down. I entered a room to the left, which almost felt like an airport security. Two little pink stickers were placed over the cameras of my phone and I was told not to take any photos and videos (This is how Berghain enforces its law on privacy) and after to keep on walking.
I enter thick hanging plastic into a well-lit room. Groups of people sit around on makeshift chairs, others lie against the walls with the anemic, exhilarated look of those who have been on stimulants for days. The cloak room staff are calm, chatting to each other as they take my bag. I enter the next room to expect a sudden onslaught of pounding techno, but more silence. The walls and furniture of the room are all black, with only a few people sitting around. There is a huge, Greek looking statue in the center of the room. This motif continues throughout the club – one is led to believe that you have almost stumbled upon a reclaimed, ancient ruin. I see a stairway in front of me, and above, I hear music. Almost involuntarily, I begin to climb the stairs.
The music is crystal clear, and all around. It is still dark enough that I can only just make out the people around me. To my right is a massive stereo. The music completely dominates the room, it is inescapable. Elements of the crowd begin to come into the focus, but even then only small glimpses between the flash of the changing lights. No one seems to be too messed up. One woman looks like a stereotypical speed mess, her swinging jaw dominating all other features of her face. Most people wear only black, and some wear very little. Those who are mostly naked, are also extremely fit looking. Everyone dances, there are no people standing around talking, no circles of people dancing at each other. Despite being totally sober, I begin to almost get something of a brief and psychosomatic high.
Just outside the toilet is what almost looks like a cafe, with large, snake like pretzels for sale in a deli. People sit around in their underwear chatting. Inside, there are a group of six or seven people sat on a couch in the corner, boys and girls in their early to mid-twenties shaking hands.
I got up a second staircase and come into Panorama Bar. Here it is daytime and the crowd now comes into focus. No one seems very young, in their mid-twenties and up. The room is full of chatter, only half the room or so fully dances. The song sounds like a 4 am comedown song, melancholic and far away sounding, yet somehow this doesn’t dampen the mood. The fashion here also begins to look far more eccentric – I think the lighting of the main room contributes to the famous „You have to be dressed in black“ cliche. Denim sweater vests, boa hats, Hawaiian shirts all feature. I walk around a back passageway to come around to the other side of the bar. There are 6 or 7 booths here. They are mostly empty; in one a couple kisses; in another, a girl thrashes about.
I come around to the other side of the dance floor. It’s far more crowded here, and it’s hard to dance. The music begins to kick off a bit more. People shuffle about in place, it being too crowded to dance properly. I walk back around to get a better spot, and spot a naked man, reclining with his knees tucked into his chest, his arsehole high up in the air, asking strangers to fuck him. I get another glance of the trashing woman. She’s now in a demon like, almost yoga like, pose, with hair like the girl from „The Ring“, half-draped over, half-stuck to her face. It’s one of those situations where you hope the person is merely on drugs.
I explore the downstairs level of Berghain a bit and almost walk into what seemed to be a dark room. It’s a very small space, almost like a sleeping cabin and absolutely pitch black. I see nothing but feel only a wave of pulsing body heat and the sound of hasty re-, or de-buckling of belts.
A person looks me up and down, and smirks. Suddenly I become very aware of myself and decide to go back to the main room.